Modeling the Dynamic Complexities of the Urban Food Environment to Improve Access to Healthy Foods
Widener, Michael John
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Many low-income households in cities lack spatial and economic access to vendors that sell high quality and nutritious healthy foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables. This lack of access makes it difficult for low-income urban residents to maintain healthy diets, and thereby places them at a higher risk of suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Improving spatial access to healthy foods will help resolve one component of this accessibility problem, and increase the potential that low-income residents will maintain healthy diets. The first chapter of this dissertation reviews previous research on healthy food accessibility and the links between healthy diets and improved health outcomes. In the second chapter a dynamic conceptualization of the urban food environment is introduced. The third chapter acknowledges that dynamics exist in the urban food environment and proposes a mobile market produce distribution system that can more flexibly serve populations in need throughout a city. The fourth chapter introduces an agent-based model that explores how different policy interventions might influence the number of low-income households that consume fresh fruits and vegetables. The final chapter reviews and discusses the research findings of the dissertation, presents conclusions, and suggests opportunities for future research.